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A great universe marred by overly simple stories.
on 23 July 2014
Brin's universe is truly interesting - a great concept, that of course puts the upstart race of man in a precarious position, but still admired for our tenacity and uniqueness.
He plays his stories with a light touch. Most novels with this level of grandeur in their setup weave epic, universe spanning tales. They usually take in some level of fundamental, ground shaking revelation with a reach that touches everything and every race caught up in the events - leaving you reeling in the scope of the story.
Instead, Brin downplays the rich backdrop in favour of a vignette set inside that alternative universe - a little like an episode of a TV show, rather than the spectacle of a movie. Each of the three novels in here focuses on one small event, told at a gentle pace. It's partly genius and partly disappointing - perhaps I've been primed by Baxter, Reynolds and Banks to expect rollercoaster-paced all encompassing plotting and now I _need_ that scale of narrative and universe wide upheaval. Perhaps that's why I was left a little flat by Uplift.
The sense of scale and the vastness of the event's effects are left implicit, hinted at, but never spoken aloud. The ramifications of novel's events happen in the space in between the books, they are played out as the reasons behind each of these three novels, but never experienced. This has a power all of its own, I imagine that the idea is to leave you with the feeling that everything is embedded in something bigger, something you don't fully understand, and through your own imagination filling in the blanks, it becomes even larger, even richer.
Sadly for me, that wasn't the feeling I got reading Uplift. I felt I knew enough from his hints to know that background, understood enough to want to see it happen and felt undernourished as a result when inevitably, there was no payoff at backstory level.
I enjoyed the read, but to sum up, Uplift has an interesting universe, but the three small stories within it felt like they didn't reach their potential. They promised great things, but did not deliver them.